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Money for nothing – and your (gambling) kicks for free

How to take free cash from bookies: Part 1

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We're all so sure that there's no such thing as a free lunch, that the offer of anything for free has us looking for the catch. So, depending on your attitude to gambling, the offer of a free bet from a bookmaker might have you looking for the devil himself angling for your soul.

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But bookmakers do offer genuine free bets all the time, and it can be a fairly simple matter to pocket the sum they're offering without risking your own cash. This article is about playing the system, and picking up the money. It's not about gambling.

The free bets offered online are the industry's primary method of attracting new customers, and retaining and cajoling action from existing ones. It works. New figures from Nielsen show a 40 per cent jump in Britons visiting a gambling website in the last year.

The pace of growth is outstripping Facebook and social media - an additional 3.2 million logged onto gaming sites last year compared with 2.2 million on Facebook and its rivals.

The offers

Any search on free bets will bring up a list of them such as Freebets.co.uk. There's loads of them. William Hill and Ladbrokes are offering a £25 free bet when you deposit and wager £25. BetFred is offering a £50 bet once you've deposited and bet £50. The bigger deals come with strings attached, which we'll come to, but all the offers are genuine and money can be made. Start with the small straightforward offers.

How much money can you make? You should be able to get £500 to £1,000 with a small amount of effort. I've made more than £1,000 doing it – £500 coming from just three bookmakers. At the time Ladbrokes and 365Bet had £200 free bet deals, and 10Bet offered a free bet to the level of 30 per cent of your initial deposit, to a maximum of £100.

Other people plug away in a more dedicated fashion. Donglemouse records his matched betting diary in a discussion board on the Money Saving Expert website.

In five years of running his project he'd secured £10,696 from new account offers, and £21,184 from offers on his existing accounts. It's worth noting that cashback sites such as Quidco and TopCashBack sometimes have cash back deals on the bookmakers and betting exchanges which make it worth registering through them.

How do you make money out of this without risking your own cash? The basic method, known as matched betting, is that you use your own money to make your qualifying bet with a bookmaker – for Team A, say, to win their match. Then, at a betting exchange (the main one is Betfair, and number two is Betdaq) with another bookmakers, you make an opposing bet (known as laying the bet) that Team A won't win (ie it will lose or draw). The two bets cancel each other out – you'll win one bet and lose the other.

Now you get to bet with the free bookmaker money, and you find a new event to bet on both possible outcomes. This time, when the game, race or whatever, is over, you're left with a profit.

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